What are cookies?

Most websites these days prompt you to accept internet cookies or show a disclaimer that cookies are being used in some way on the website.  The name ‘cookie’ came about in 1994 when computer programmer, Lou Montulli came up with the concept of using magic cookies for web traffic communication.  The term magic cookie was already in existence and referred to a packet of data the computer program receives and send s back to its originator unchanged.

There are different types of cookie too and I don’t mean chocolate chip, biscotti, ginger, oats…the list goes on. 

(I’ve realised there tends to be a lot of food references in this blog.  I obviously write these posts when I’m hungry)

 

So, what are they?

Cookies in their simplest form, are a text file made up of two things - the website name and a unique ID number.  They created in programming code called HTML (Hyper-Text Mark-up Language).  They stay in the memory of the internet browser on your and kick in next time you visit the site to retain information such as passwords for preferences.

When you visit the website, it learns your preferences using its cookies.  More sophisticated cookies store information on whether you have visited the website before and the pages you are likely to look at.  Designed to help you reach what you need more quickly and to learn what you may or may not what to see when it comes to pop-ups and adverts.  Also used to store information websites to save you having to type it in all over again such as passwords, name, address and card details.

When the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) thingy came into effect in May 2018, businesses operating in the EU had to quickly adapt and make sure they were not breaking the new rules by adding disclaimers and notifications for users on how personal data is being stored and why.

There’s been plenty in the news about data protection concerns and the revelation that big companies have either breached our trust by collecting personal data from us for their own needs (e.g. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica antics this year) or data breaches where hackers have got hold of our data to potentially use it for criminal purposes.  Either way, cookies have probably got themselves a bad name in the middle of all this even though their purpose is to help rather than hinder.  With big companies like Facebook and Google using cookies to track our internet activity, regulation will eventually mean our interests of better protected out there in cyber world.

 

  

Different types of cookie

 

(spoiler alert – unless you’re into this stuff, this subject can get a bit dry.  This is a technology blog after all.  Just sayin)

 

Session cookie

Exists in the web browsers temporary memory and is deleted when the browser is closed

 

Persistent cookie

Sometimes known as a Tracking cookie.  Expires or is deleted after a certain amount of time and transmits information every time the website is visited during that period.  Examples would be advertisers tracking the user’s product viewing habits

 

Secure cookie

Same principle as session cookies but the data in encrypted and less vulnerable to hackers

 

Same-site cookie

Developed as part of the Google Chrome browser to protect data against attacks or eavesdropping

 

Third-party cookie

Mainly used in websites displaying content from other websites or sources.  The third-party cookie will belong to a different domain to the one shown in the address bar

 

Super cookie

These cookies originate from what are known as top-level domains. Top level domain (TLD) is the highest level of internet domain in the Domain Name System.  In other words .com and .co.uk

 

Zombie cookie

These are recreated from backup or data after being deleted and seen as a security breach as they store content in multiple locations

 

 Also see:

 

www.whatarecookies.com

 

www.allaboutcookies.org

 

GDPR – what’s it all about?

 

Facebook, scandal and dodgy mind tricks!

 

Sources & Photos:

www.pexels.com

 

Cookies

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